Social Credit System in China

Introduction

The process of rapid development of information technology around the world has led to the emergence of new threats and challenges to the national security of the states involved.

China was not an exception, having made a significant breakthrough in technological development in the last decade, in the field of mass introduction of automatic systems in the production process, as well as the implementation of measures to form a digital economy.

Against this background, the desire of the Chinese government to cement the manifestation of social instability, which may result from a gradual slowdown in the growth of the national economy, as well as to develop uniform moral rules and form the principle of trust in the relations of both legal entities and individuals, is especially highlighted.

The implementation of these plans of senior management is possible only with the close integration of technological achievements of the PRC and ideological policy pursued by the relevant bodies of the Chinese Communist Party.

Main body

In 2010, a mass credit program was introduced in the Chinese province of Sichuan, in Suining, which measured and evaluated the so-called individual behavior.

Initially, Chinese citizens received 1,000 credit points and points could be deducted for violating specific legal, administrative and moral standards.

For example, the punishment for drunk driving was estimated at 50 points, the birth of a second child – at 35 points, and non-repayment of loans – from 30 to 50 points.

Lost points could be restored within 2-5 years, depending on the type of misconduct and the seriousness of the violation.

As a result, on the basis of the received points, citizens were classified into categories from A to D (Hansen and Weiskopf, 2019).

Class A citizens were given preferential access to employment opportunities, and citizens with a lower rating faced higher requirements when hiring and in other areas of activity.

Appropriate incentive measures included the following bonuses:

  1. political expertise for members of the Chinese Communist Party when drafted into the army and appointed to the civil service;
  2. the simplification of legal procedures to obtain the status of a public procurement provider, to purchase low-cost state housing, and also apply for basic social security;
  3. obtaining a license to register a legal entity with the opportunity to work in the field of healthcare and transport;
  4. the availability of state support, including subsidies, low-interest loans (Kostka, 2019).

To implement measures to introduce a social credit system, it was necessary to create an information management infrastructure that would be necessary to scale credit mechanisms at the level of small towns.

The plan was based on the use of platforms for the exchange of information, which has a separation for legal entities and individuals.

At the first stage of the implementation of the plan, experiments with basic information systems were carried out in individual settlements.

The second stage involved the collection of information about legal entities and individuals. Moreover, only certain areas of activity of citizens fell under the system.

The second area was compliance with taxation rules, loan commitments, utility bills and social security (Shahin and Zheng, 2020). The third stage included the improvement of inter-regional exchange of collected information, as well as the study of new forms of its processing.

Criticism

From the point of view of political sociology, the widespread adoption of a social credit system can seriously affect the connection between a citizen and state power.

This is a kind of non-totalitarian society, which, unlike the totalitarian societies of the last century, does not need for its controllability to incite people against each other, intimidation, coercion or terror.

This is social control, which is implemented in solidarity, putting the citizen in an unprecedented dilemma.

Either he plays the game, thereby facilitating control of his reputation, environment and community, or he tries to avoid control and becomes by virtue of the fact of avoiding control a poor citizen or even a criminal qualified as such by his fellow citizens. There is no longer a silent majority, nor a departure to individual dignity.

Neutrality in relation to public life is prohibited, and neither the individual nor the community can find refuge in inertia, in the absence of activity, which until now was considered in Chinese culture as a sign of the highest wisdom. Now, at a new level, revolutionary principles are returning.

All the elements of totalitarianism without terror are there, that is, universal control in real time, a person’s personal opinion can be used by the system against a person in accordance with the anger of the day.

The already considerable area of manipulation by accidentally dropped word is expanding due to the conceptual confusion between honesty, transparency, citizenship, loyalty and public order (Xinran, 2019).

No matter how good the initial intentions of the project may be, its tools and scope turn it in the hands of the Chinese authorities, both current and future, into the formidable benefit of dual use.

Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the intellectual level of a citizen who risks losing his fundamental rights.

The social credit system is being discussed in China both at the state and household levels.

The Internet has become in recent years a powerful lever for freedom of speech (Shahin and Zheng, 2020).

In China, as in many other countries, the digital revolution has given voice to those who were previously deprived of it.

Allegations of fraud and corruption are highly valued by society.

Regardless of the initial intentions and associated negative aspects, the state in the struggle to strengthen the rule of law created a system of total control.

Alternatives

In addition to the People’s Republic of China, the social credit system is also applied in the USA, Germany, Great Britain and France.

In the USA, this system assigns each resident an individual social security number, to which personal data and other information on the employment and solvency of the citizen are attached.

This number is requested when assisting or hiring. Private rating agencies such as FICO, Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian operate in the United States.

Each company has its own computing technology and methods for calculating social rating. Such a legislative framework has actually become the basis for creating a credit rating.

The difference between the American system and the Chinese one is that the first is aimed at analyzing the creditworthiness of an individual citizen or at evaluating a job applicant. This system is also used to calculate social benefits and subsidies (Keane and Su, 2019). However, it does not imply monitoring the population and scoring for the correct behavior of citizens.

In the European Union, in particular, in Germany, France and the UK, the practice of using a social credit system also operates.

At the same time, the European system for collecting and processing personal information is sharpened only for the formation of a credit rating of a citizen or organization.

As a rule, the only regulator of this rating is the link between the economic bloc of the government and the European Central Bank.

The exception is Germany, where private agencies collect and process credit information. The credit agency operates in the country, receiving data from various companies, banks and other legal entities in order to provide this information to third parties upon request. Upon request, the agency gives either a positive or negative expert opinion (Wong and Dobson, 2019). Most of the requests relate to credit history, information about the availability of German and foreign accounts and bank cards.

In addition, the agency provides information on fines, tax evasion, and untimely loan repayment. Unlike other European countries, in Germany the credit agency is not accountable to the state and the European Central Bank.

Conclusion

The Chinese authorities are building a unified system of control over both their own and foreign citizens and organizations.

This allows the government to monitor and record the activities of legal entities and individuals by identifying them.

Despite the fact that the Chinese authorities launched pilot projects of the social credit system, a unified social credit system does not yet exist.

Formally, this system is aimed at building trust in society and in the process of organizations.

According to the plan of the Chinese authorities, this activates the growth of the Chinese economy and the implementation of the concept of the Chinese dream.

Reference List

Hansen, H. K., & Weiskopf, R. (2019). ‘From universalizing transparency to the interplay of transparency matrices: Critical insights from the emerging social credit system in China’, Organization Studies.

Keane, M. and Su, G. (2019) ‘When push comes to nudge: a Chinese digital civilisation in-the- making’, Media International Australia, 173(1), pp. 3-16.

Kostka, G. (2019) ‘China’s social credit systems and public opinion: Explaining high levels of approval’, New Media & Society, 21(7), pp. 1565-1593.

Shahin, S. and Zheng, P. (2020) ‘Big data and the illusion of choice: Comparing the evolution of India’s Aadhaar and China’s social credit system as technosocial discourses’, Social Science Computer Review, 38(1), pp. 25-41.

Wong, K. L. X. and Dobson, A. S. (2019) ‘We’re just data: Exploring China’s social credit system in relation to digital platform ratings cultures in Westernised democracies’, Global Media and China, 4(2), pp. 220-232.

Xinran. (2019). ‘China in their hands: The social credit system in China risks creating an all- controlling society where young people will, like generations before them, live in fear’, Index on Censorship, 48(2), pp. 74-76.